Years ago I use to think Winter was the worst time of year. My main dislike was naturally the temperature. It’s a real shock going from our hot and sultry Summer to a near-freezing Winter.
It gets colder further south but we still get our fair share of icy starts and while the dramatic temperature drop is my main gripe, I’ve grown to love the excellent, stable fishing we get at this time of year. Summer may produce the exciting pelagics but Winter wins hands-down for consistent catches of quality fish.
So far this season we have got off to a good start. The earlier run of solid cobia is still going and just the other day a 40kg cobe came off the Jail Reefs.
While most fish certainly aren’t this big, there seems to be a steady run of 8kg to 15kg fish if you’re prepared to put in the hours live-baiting.
While the reefs off the Jail have been producing fish, there are reports of cobia from around Green Island and on the northern reefs off Grassy Head and Scotts Head.
If you put in enough time with live baits on hard country loaded with bait schools, you’re likely to find a cobia or two.
Kingfish are traditionally a cool water species here and the colder the water gets, the more kings we seem to catch.
At the time of writing the water is still 20° and there are pretty good numbers of kingfish at Fish Rock and Black Rock, mostly from 3kg to 6kg. As the water cools more, they simply get more abundant and much larger.
In late Winter and early Spring we usually see some thumpers to 25kg take up residence at Fish Rock and Black Rock.
You also find small packs of big fish cruising the southern headlands chasing tailor and salmon.
Gibraltar to Green Island is a reliable section to look for big fish using live tailor for bait. Needless to say, use heavy gear and frightening drag settings.
Last Winter’s run of snapper was lousy but this season things have really turned around.
While there are some terrific reds around, you’ll have to head further north to catch them.
Perhaps it’s just a seasonal thing, or perhaps the inshore stocks off Grassy have been largely fished out but either way, if you want reliable snapper fishing, start no further south than Scotts Head.
Those doing the miles are being rewarded with quality fish up to 7kg.
With the current fuel prices it’s a fairly expensive run but if you want decent snapper, be prepared to pay at the pump.
The local headlands have come good with schools of tailor and bream at Gibraltar, North Gap, Poverty and Mermaid Pool.
Dawn and dusk have been most reliable with the tailor falling to gars and pilchards. The bream don’t seem to overly fussy, though cut baits of tuna are going well.
The Macleay has slowly fired up with bream, blackfish and mulloway starting to show.
The bream are in good numbers around the river mouth and at Kemps Corner, falling to lures and bait around the tide change.
Blackfish are in much the same areas, with White Rock (north side of river) and the Wire Fence (southern side) producing pretty good bags.
Mulloway aren’t in huge numbers but those putting in the time around dawn and dusk with live baits are finding a few co-operative fish close to the river mouth.
Further up-river, it’s bream and bass time.
This is a fun time of year to fish from Smithtown up to Frederickton because there’s often an equal mix of bass and bream along the rock walls and weed-lined edges.
The duck weed is also worth a flick with lures as most are in a metre or so of water and often have reasonable numbers of fish chasing the prawns that hang around the stems.
Small soft plastics (Gulps or Squidgies from 40mm to 60mm) and shallow-running minnow lures are usually the most reliable.Reads: 741